South Carolina statehouse grounds

2021 Session Wrap-Up

The 2021 regular legislative session ended this week. As this was the first year in a two-year session, bills that failed to pass both chambers are on hold until next January when session resumes, generally speaking. However, this does not mean the Legislature is finished meeting for the year.

Most immediately, the General Assembly will return for multiple special sessions during the month of June, where according to the their end-of-session rules (called the “sine die” resolution), lawmakers can consider:

  • The state budget
  • COVID-19 legislation
  • Governor vetoes
  • Appointments
  • Bills in conference committee (how bills with differing House and Senate versions are resolved)
  • Bills related to redistricting (drawing of electoral districts)

The resolution also allows the House speaker and Senate president to call back their respective chambers through the rest of the year.

The most notable bill in conference committee likely to be considered is H.3194, determining the future of Santee Cooper. The House version of this bill would appoint a legislatively controlled committee to explore offers to purchase Santee Cooper. It would also make a number of “reforms” to the utility in the meantime, many of which would simply increase lawmakers’ power. The Senate version is strictly a reform bill, and does not contain the option to sell Santee Cooper. (Read our extended analysis here)

What passed this year?

Below is a quick review of several important bills that passed this year, some of which we covered during the legislative session.

H.3605 – Repealing the requirement to hold joint, open budget meetings

This bill repeals the law requiring the House and Senate budget-writing committees (House Ways and Means, Senate Finance committees) to hold joint, public hearings on the governor’s proposed state spending plan. Lawmakers refused to follow this law for years, and only now have decided to repeal it entirely. There are still several other important budget laws on the books that, if followed, would serve as crucial check on excessive state spending.

H.3094 – Open carry of handguns

This bill allows those with a valid permit (CWP) to open carry a handgun (up until now, it has only been legal to carry in a concealed manner). It’s important to note this this bill is different from H.3096, which would have allowed lawful gun owners to carry a handgun without the need for a permit.

H.3786 – Considering pay raises for state officials

This bill directs the Agency Head Salary Commission to come up with new salary recommendations for the following state officials: the Secretary of State, the State Treasurer, the Attorney General, the Comptroller General, the Superintendent of Education, the Adjutant General, and the Commissioner of Agriculture. Specific salary amounts will ultimately be decided by lawmakers. The current annual salary for these officials is $92,000.

H.3011- Driving in the left lane

This bill states that a person cannot drive in the furthest left-lane on a highway unless they are passing another vehicle. However, this rule would not apply if there is no one behind the driver cruising in the left-lane, or for a variety of other reasons that make driving in the right-lane impractical. A ticket for this offense can be no more than $25.

S.200 – Method of execution for death row inmates

This bill clarifies that death by electrocution is the default method for death row inmates, and that lethal injection may only be selected if it is available at the time. The bill also adds the option to die by firing squad. Currently, only three other states allow for execution via this method.

***It should be noted that as of the writing of this summary on May 14, the governor has not signed any of the above-mentioned bills. While he has suggested he will sign the open carry bill, it is less clear whether he will sign legislation like the bill striking the requirement to hold joint, open hearings on the budget.***